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the satisfaction of seeing many scores brought to the foot of the
I expected by-and-by to find leisure to make better sermons; but I have never found it. My boat is on the stream, and I have been borne down the rapid current without the time to rest, until I can almost see the mouth of the river and the boundless ocean beyond. I would not advise any man to do what I have done. I would breathe into you the devotion of my early ministry; but I would urge you to make better preparation, and become a workman more approved both by God and
THE DELIVERY OF THE SERMON.
In the composition of a sermon the collection of material evinces the diligent student. Broad and comprehensive thoughts reveal the great thinker; clear, beautiful, and forcible language manifests the cultured writer; but only in the delivery of the sermon does the true preacher appear.
His throne is the pulpit; he stands in Christ's stead ; his message is the Word of God; around him are immortal souls; the Saviour unseen is beside him; the Holy Spirit broods over the congregation; angels gaze upon the scene; and Heaven and hell await the issue. What associations and what vast responsibility!
The sermon, considered simply as matter, might be contained in an essay or a book; that which constitutes it preaching is the appearance, utterance, and action of a living preacher. It is different from the ordinary lecture or oration by the message being divine, and the speaker having been sent of God; and from the theological essay or the published sermon by the presence and influence of the speaker. The Word of God is the constant quantity; the preacher the variable.
If this be true, then that preaching is best which, on the one hand, is most full of the divine message, and which, on the other hand, has the greatest personality of the preacher. The speaker employs not only the truth, but the utmost powers of utterance, intonation, countenance, and gesticulation. I think Dr. Dick first su ggested that the time might come when the preacher could sit in his study, and, by means of tubes properly arranged, could address a distant congregation. A similar use has been suggested for the phonograph. While either of these processes
uld convey the sound to the ear, the accent and intonation of
the speaker, who does not feel that by such a process the chief power and influence of the pulpit would be lost ? Were not the presence of the preacher necessary, God could have employed the ministıy of angels, or each person might have been addressed by a visionary voice. The ordination of God requires that preaching should be by a man of like passions and sympathies with other men. He stands as a witness and illustration of the influence of divine power. As he knows the truth of the Gospel, others
may know it; as he has felt the power of the Gospel, others may feel it also. He tells them how he was moved ; out of how deep a pit he was drawn; how his feet have been placed on the Rock of Ages; how he repented and believed; how he was delivered from temptation ; how he is now filled with power to resist the allurements and temptations that once took him captive; how that once he was influenced only by the visible and earthly, and that now he is under the sweet attraction of the unseen and heavenly. If, therefore, the personality of men the preacher be so necessary and potent a factor, what manner of person should the minister be in all holy conversation and godliness? He should resemble Stephen, “full of faith and the Holy Ghost.” He should be able to say, with Paul: “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believed."
There are four different methods of delivering a sermon, each of which has in its favour the authority of eminent names and conspicuous examples. First, reading in the pulpit from a copy previously prepared ; secondly, reciting from memory a sermon 2. which has been committed; thirdly, using notes, more or less 3. copious, which are read or referred to in the pulpit, and to which may be added such illustrations and amplifications as may occur to the mind at the moment, or which may have been more or less premeditated; fourthly, speaking directly to the audience without relying on any verbal preparation. These various methods may be and frequently are partially intermingled. The reader who becomes enthused may pass over pages of manuscript, reciting from memory, or so permeated with his subject that he ventures to vary from the language before him. So the extem
pore speaker frequently quotes from memory Scripture texts, or phrases, or lines of poetry, or he may read an extract from some author, or a paragraph of statistics.
Reading secures to the preacher self-possession. He knows Ithat he has his sermon prepared, and, consequently, has no burden
his memory or imagination. Nor will the presence or absence of any person in his congregation either annoy or confuse him. He has nothing to do but simply to read what he has written. He is confident of the accuracy of his language and the strength of his logic. He had time to revise and change while the pen was in his hand. Some ministers labour under the apprehension that if they speak extemporaneously they may forget the intended points of their sermon, or, in the excitement of speaking, may omit some necessary link in the argument. To others language comes slowly, and, under the hesitancy, utterance becomes difficult. So some men of fine culture and mental strength feel themselves inadequate to the task of preaching without manuscript. Others prepare written sermons that definition may be more precise, and for purposes of controversy. There the preparation of the manuscript is undoubtedly of valuable service. But, while admitting the force of these statements, yet it seems to me that the advantages are not so great as the disadvantages. In reading closely, little of the preacher's personal power, except his voice, is added to the written words.
Even that is restrained, as the reading voice is not so full as the speaking one. The power of the eye, the play of the features, the light of the countenance, and the freedom of movement, are either lost to the audience, or greatly restricted.
This personal power being the great factor in preaching, whatever impairs it inevitably weakens the impression of the sermon. It is said that the minister ought not to read closely ; that the eye need not follow the manuscript, except now and then; that the preacher can remember much of his sermon, and that he can commit it without much labour. This is true. But if
it indicates that the free delivery is better than reading. -If a man excels as a reader when he seldom looks at his manuscript, would it not be Excelsior not to look at all? Is it not
the true mark of a good reader that he reads as if he were speaking? But is it ever considered a compliment to a speaker that he speaks as if he were reading ? Those who recite from memory do so sometimes appear; but it is ever considered a blemish. If we consider the advantages carefully, we shall find that they inure to the preacher, rather than to his hearers. If, after he has written an argument, and has thus familiarized himself with it, he cannot remember its various links, is it probable that the people will remember it who hear it for the first time as he reads ? If the points of his sermons are so feebly connected that, after studying and writing, he cannot recall them in the proper order, is the order very material ? If he is not interested enough in the message which God sends through him, is it necessary to interest the people? Nor is reading necessary for accurate definition. Does the professor in the lecture room read his definitions ? It is said he is familiar with them. So should the minister be with definitions in theology. If the minister cannot trust to his memory for his definitions, will they be easily apprehended by his people ? As to controversial sermons, the less of them the better, as a general rule. I do not object to doctrinal preaching; but Ilarni think it is seldom necessary to preach in a controversial style. Mr. Wesley, who lived in a time of great agitation, said that? out of eight hundred sermons which he preached in a year, there were not more than eight of a controversial character.
The use of notes is less objectionable in these respects than the written sermon. They may refresh the memory in case of confusion of thought, and may impart confidence for the time without withdrawing the attention of the speaker very greatly from the audience; yet it would be much better to have the notes thoroughly written on the heart. If notes be used, the heads of the discourse may be read, and the extemporizing may be greater or less according to the occasion or the ability of the speaker.
Reciting from memory, if the sermon has been well committed, is not unpleasant to the hearer, as the preacher may have full play for all his powers. This form of delivery, however, for